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Curtiss XP-55 Ascender

Curtiss XP-55 Ascender Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review February 2014 Title Curtiss XP-55 Ascender
Author Gerry Balzer Publisher Ginter Books
Published 2014 ISBN 9780989258333
Format 76 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $24.95


In 1940, Request for Proposal R40-C resulted in three new, futuristic USAAC "pusher" fighter designs: the Vultee XP-54, Curtiss XP-55 and Northrop XP-56.

Now Curtiss' entry dominates a spellbinding study from Ginter Books, Curtiss XP-55 Ascender – number 217 in the publisher's acclaimed "Air Force Legends" series.

Contents begin with a superb summary of the USAAC 1940 fighter competition that resulted in the winning – but ultimately unsuccessful – Curtiss, Vultee and Northrop designs.  Concepts both familiar and fanciful appeared.  And author Gerry Balzer capably recaps all.

Text next segues to Ascender development and testing.  With its tricycle landing gear and advanced aerodynamics, Curtiss' CW 24 configuration proved a "substantial departure from conventional design practice" – and an "unwitting precursor to the swept wing solution for the dramatic increase in transonic drag".  Coverage then maneuvers into minutiae – flight testing and assessments.

Detail enthusiasts!  Dozens of photos and illustrations – many of the latter from tech manuals – flavor this fulsome account.  Charts and diagrams further spice the story.  And Ginter's usual model section wraps things up.  Balzer even includes Crackerjack prizes: a jet-powered XP-55 study and sidebars on Japan's Kyusha J7W1 Shinden and Italy's Ambrosini SS.4 canard fighters!

Three prototypes, two crashes and one fatality finally doomed the Ascender effort.  And the only survivor resides today at the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo, MI, USA.

This terrific tome might have sprung from 1940's pulp fiction – if it weren't real!  And I absolutely loved Gerry Balzer's informative and entertaining effort.  Now how about companion Ginter monographs on the Vultee XP-54 and Northrop XP-56, as well?

Rabidly recommended!

With thanks to Ginter Books!